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I remember this story from 3 years ago. As I continue my journey on Sugarholic Road, I thought I would share it again.

This is a Friday day for me. I had two major projects to complete and, you guessed it, neither got done. One of our office computers had a Trojan virus that captured the screen and made the machine useless. Frustration Friday.

Food…enjoying flavorful food is my favorite pastime when things are not going well. Chocolate. Ice cream. Candy bars. They are my comfort foods.

Today I choose a different comfort food or maybe you could say it choose me. Our UPS delivery man brought us a box filled with popcorn…five bags in a multitude of flavors from POPCORN INDIANA. (Not sure where it got its name from, since the company’s address is in Englewood, NJ.)

But here we are on a crazy Friday afternoon all crunching away and determined to leave the office with a smile.


This was taken 3 years ago with Merlyn (L) and Roanne. Merlyn is now the recycling coordinator in Ulster County and had a baby book in December 2017. Sorry to say that our wonderful Roanne recently died. 


We all loved the Chip-ins. Chips made with popcorn. That bag went fast.


The Fit Sea-salt bag tasted sinfully good, with very few calories.


And the Kettlecorn reminds me of a lighter Crackerjacks, except it doesn’t have a prize. According to their website Popcorn Indiana is available at locally at Price Chopper.

Image   When I was younger, my friends and I used to head over to Minnewaska, hike to the falls, cliff jump, and sunbathe on the smooth rock.  As a busy parent of two littles, I haven’t been back in a long time for obvious reasons, and I truly miss it.  So, you can imagine how excited I was to hear of a toddler friendly swimming hole right in the Mohonk Preserve.  I couldn’t wait to try it, so over the weekend we packed up our suits and headed over to Split Rock.   Image   After stopping at the visitor’s center and speaking with the guide (you can read about our experience at the visitor’s center here), we felt pretty confident we could find Split Rock. We made a right back onto Route 44/55 and headed up the mountain.  We drove about a mile and a half before making a right onto Clove Road.  We drove less than a mile on Clove then made a right onto a dirt road leading us to the Coxing parking lot. Once there, we paid the attendant our admittance fee ($12 per person, kids under 12 are free) and headed across the street and picked up the trail.  After a quick walk through an open field, the path intersected with the meandering brook.  We followed the stream downhill, and the trees opened up to reveal Split Rock.   Image   Nature is truly a wonder, and Split Rock is the perfect example of it in its purist form.  Rocks in the formation of stairs lead you down the side of the waterfall to the crystal clear pools below.   The water is so transparent you can see the bottom of the basin which consists of smooth rock and sand making it the perfect pool.  The water is chilly but refreshing on a hot summer day.  It’s all too delicious to not immediately dip your toes in.   Image   We had a great time exploring and enjoying this beautiful site.  The girls splashed in the pools, built dams in the stream, and let the little waterfalls cascade over their toes.  Had the day been a bit warmer, we would have joined the brave few who ventured deeper to swim.   photo-1   A few things to consider… Although I was warned we might stumble upon some nudists if we headed further downstream, the only naked people I saw were of the toddler variety.  Also, the Coxing parking lot is rather small and can fill up quickly so an earlier start is better to guarantee a spot.  Also, bring water shoes or crocs to better maneuver through the water.  Lastly, plan to stay for the day because no one will want to leave!



  We also enjoyed Croton Gorge for a toddler friendly hike and waterfall, and you can read about our trip here.

Two of the best things about living in the Hudson Valley are its proximity to the hustle and bustle of New York City, and its proximity to so many breath-taking natural wonders.  Bash Bish Falls is without a doubt one of those spots.  Bash Bish Falls is a 200 foot waterfall whose beauty is surrounded by gigantic rocks, pools of water, greenery, and a gorge that dates back to the last Ice Age.  Every July, we take the scenic route through Millbrook and toward Copake, NY, where the state borders Mt. Washington, Massachusetts.  Parking is simple (not always the case in nature) and as you exit your car you’ll hear the faint rush of water.  You’ll find yourself just a few steps from the falls runoff, and at the beginning of a 3/4 mile hike.  The hike is short, albeit uphill, with a dirt path that includes a good deal of small rocks and tree roots.  What’s unique about this hike is that you’ll travel alongside the bottom of the falls, and won’t be able to resist the siren pull of the water.  Although “no swimming” is posted along the hike, both the young and old stop to frolic in the stream.

The beautiful stream

The beautiful stream

In fact, we always picnic on one special rock, which faithfully waits for us year after year.

Our lunch rock

Our lunch rock

About two-thirds of the way up the hill, you’ll find a spot marked by a quaint wooden sign which informs you that you’re about to walk yourself right into Massachussets.  Each time, we can’t resist taking a photo to mark this accomplishment.

Half New York, half Massachusetts.  How many waterfall hikes can claim that?

Half New York, half Massachusetts. How many waterfall hikes can claim that?

When you reach the top of the hike, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of the waterfall and gorge.  After descending a long rock staircase,  you’ll know why you’ve come.


The very bottom of the Falls has a deep, cool, clear pool, into which daredevils and families alike take the plunge.  In front of the pool, humongous rock after rock begs to be climbed.  On any given day, these rocks delight young couples lounging in the shade, kids hopping from rock to rock, and dogs drinking from the water.  No matter how long we spend climbing and relaxing in the water, I’m always sad when it’s time to pack up and take the 3/4 mile walk back to our car.  After a peaceful, refreshing, exciting afternoon, I leave looking forward to next July, when we can return once again to the Falls.

This is the definition of Special Needs as per Random House Dictionary/

Special Needs


“The special educational requirements of those with learning difficulties, emotional or behavioral problems, or physical disabilities.”

What I find to be ironic here is that “learning difficulties” is the first adjective written, but to the average person it is not the first thing people think of when they hear of a child with special needs.

I don’t know why Luke has a learning disability. I don’t know why it takes him so long to process certain information, simple information, it just is. What I do know is how frustrating it can be when other people judge or mistreat my son based on his appearance. It’s not discrimination to a Jackie Robinson level, but it does get to a point where it can get you extremely heated. Whether it’s the school board, some random person at the park or even worse, a family member, it’s absurd that people would think your child is not in the condition you are claiming him to be based on his physical appearance.

Funny thing about this...Tim Tebow responded & it was retweeted over 1000 times. I think we got our point across

Funny thing about this…Tim Tebow responded & it was retweeted over 1000 times. I think we got our point across.

Not long ago, we were at an event that was geared towards children with special needs, and a mother turned to my wife and myself and questioned my son having an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). Unaware that Luke was our son at the time, we kind of looked at each other with this look of disbelief. Being the bigger person I gave my response in a “well actually” type of manner and did not lose my cool. My wife on the other hand wanted to fly across the room like Justin Tuck lunging at Michael Vick at the goal line.

Did you ever find yourself in a similar situation?

How I wish I could get into that head of his and see what is going on

How I wish I could get into that head of his and see what is going on

I sometimes catch myself looking at Luke from the corner of my eye as he flies down our hallway and just think of how different things would be for him if he did not have these hurdles.  For the obvious reasons, that is ok for me to think about. I do have an issue with someone else telling us our son is “fine” or “there’s nothing wrong with him”. Unless you are from Krypton and can see something others can’t, you should not judge based on ones physical appearance. It’s not fine for your child to have spent more hours as a patient in a hospital room than you have spent as a patient or visitor your entire life. It’s not fine to be on vacation in South Carolina, only to have your son have multiple seizures that can only be controlled by a medication that was not in our possession causing us to drive to four different pharmacies over two states to obtain (thank you Savannah, GA CVS). It’s not fine for our son to be hooked up to electrodes or be rushed to the hospital for an allergic reaction that was caused by him drinking from his brother’s cup by mistake.

I was never one for clichés, but seriously people…Don’t judge a kid by his big blue eyes.

If you have experienced this same type of “discrimination”, I would love to hear from you.



Sally’s Dream at Orange County Park in Montgomery is a playground that accommodates any and all children.  It is expansive with towering trees providing shady relief for sweaty kids and adults alike.  It has a large wooden structure with slides and bridges and tiers to climb up and poles to slide down.  Sophie, my 17 month old, loves to careen over the wobbly bridge, down the ramp and coast down one of the smaller slides.  It always looks like her little legs can’t keep up with the rest of her.  Scares me everytime but she always has a determined grin on her face.  There are swings of all types, a smaller wooden structure with more slides and a fort, and plenty of room to run around.


This park is my 4 year old daughter’s favorite and is a great park for play dates.  We almost always meet up with a friend or three, but on the off chance we go alone, Madison is quick to join forces with a new friend.  Old friends or new, endless possibilities abound.  One day they are pirates steering the “ship” through dangerous waters to find the treasure. Another day they are super heros scaling the spider web like rope structure to capture the bad guy.  Home base is always the fort at the top of the jungle gym, and the quickest way down is, without fail, the twisty slide.  I love watching Madison and her friends invent new ways to play at “her” park.


We frequent this park at least once a week, weather permitting.  There are decent bathrooms and a pavilion with picnic benches.  This is one small part of Orange County Park, but it happens to be our favorite.

DSC_6863If you want to read about other area playgrounds, you can do so here and here.   Do you know of a great park in the Hudson Valley?  If so, please comment below.  We are always eager to try something new!

If I could have found a clean version of Macklemore’s popular song “Thrift Shop,” I would have included a link because it’s main hook “I’m gonna pop some tags” has become the anthem of bargain hunters everywhere.  Despite lyrics that poke fun at thrift shopping, it has undoubtedly made it acceptable, if not pretty cool, to shop at your local thrift shop.  Since this is one of my favorite ways to save money, I wanted to share 6 tips that make it even more fun to “pop them tags.”

1. You can find designer clothes.  I’m not one to tout the idea of being a slave to brand name/designer clothing, BUT if you are inclined toward this type of shopping, thrift shops have every brand under the sun. You just have to be up for the hunt.  I have found Polo and Burberry shirts for my son for $3 a piece at the Salvation Army in Middletown.  


2. You CAN and SHOULD ask for discounts.  Always check the clothing thoroughly for rips and stains before you buy.  If you can mend small tears and are willing to wash out stains this can be a big negotiating tool, especially with smaller shops.  Two years ago I found this super cute pumpkin Halloween costume for my son, but when I opened it I found (as any mom could already anticipate) chocolate stains on the front.  I pointed it out to the sales clerk and she immediately gave it to me for half-price.  For $5 I was willing to wash the costume and as it turns out it looked good as new.

Also, ask when their discount days are and you could end up filling a bag of clothes for a few bucks.  Follow your favorite stores on Facebook and get the inside track on new deals and inventory.  Plus, you can request specific items and they’ll tell you when it’s in stock and possibly even hold it for you.


3.  Look for MORE than clothes.  You can find great deals on book bags, Halloween costumes, prom dresses, books, toys, furniture, etc.  All it takes is patience. Only true bargain hunters may have what it takes to comb through the chaotic aisles, but if you do, chances are you’ll be rewarded with some seriously great deals.  

4. Clothes are used.  Seems redundant to state the obvious, but there is a big perk to that.  Clothes are less likely to shrink since they’ve already been washed and worn.

5. There’s no assembly required. Sure we all love spending hours putting together kitchen sets and toys designed with 6,000 parts (eye roll).  When you find toys at thrift shops, you benefit from some other parent’s hours of labor.  You get the prize without the work, now that’s smart “tag poppin.”

6. Shopping second-hand is Eco-friendly. I love that “tag poppin” encourages people to use things that might otherwise go to the landfill and saves enormous amounts of resources needed to produce new goods.

I encourage my fellow frugal warriors to check out thrift and consignment shops in their area.  Share your favorites here with fellow readers because a good bargain hunter is always on the lookout for prime hunting ground.  

Going on weekends through September 22nd, the Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo Park, NY is a fun family day trip.  My husband and I thought our kids would enjoy the history and spectacle of the Faire,  so when it opened this season, we decided to check it out.  Not having been to the Faire since I was a teenager, I was a little skeptical.  For the most part, many festivals and fairs seem like little more than paying admission to a glorified flea market, and I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the trip.


Arriving at the Faire was spectacle in and of itself.  After parking in a designated lot, we were directed onto a bus which drove us a few miles down the street to the Faire entrance.  Immediately upon entering, my kids were mesmerized by the costumes.  Everyone from Faire staff to guests were decked out in makeup and period costumes.  After paying $1 for a program, we scouted out the stages and shows, planning our afternoon.  We began with a belly dancing show, which captivated our attention.  More campy than skill, the women enticed the audience to clap and sway along.


After stopping for a gigantic pickle (I didn’t see the appeal, but my older daughter begged for one!), we were off to the next show.


This daredevil act involved a scrappy looking guy who joked about his need for attention as he rode a unicycle over a tightrope and juggled fire and a chainsaw.  Definitely not something to try at home.



Since we’re gluten-free we brought our own lunch, but as we ate we eyed turkey legs bigger than my younger daughter’s head, and ended our meal with neon cotton candy.  We wandered around the Faire grounds, dodging booths selling eye patches, lizards, and wooden shields (ah, the glorified flea market, aka my least favorite part; I knew it’d be there).  My girls were taken by the hair braiding booth, but at $30 per person, we passed.  The grounds were pretty, albeit a little run down, but we stopped to take in the sights over a cute bridge featuring a mechanical alligator in the water, and some maypole dancers.  One of them grabbed my older daughter and she got to participate in their dance.




Next up was a magic show, which was funny enough but little more than you could find at a birthday party.  Although it was getting hot and we were fading a bit, we heard through the Renaissance grapevine that the kids’ shows were not to be missed.  We watched Storybook Theater, which was cute for kids, and told the tale of an ogre and a witch with magical hugs.  As this was ending, the actor playing the tree shouted out, “Come to our Pirate show, down the way!”  Fortunately for us, we had saved the best for last.  “The Greatest Pirate Story (N)ever Told” was an improv show with a skeleton of plot filled in with audience participation.  The actors sang, danced, kissed, and fell down laughing. So did we.  My husband is an actor, and throughout the show we kept looking at one another in surprise over the quality of their work. This show was professional, and afterwards we found out that they’re on their way back to Broadway. No surprise!


Finally, it was time to leave, and also to make good on our promise for souvenirs.  After perusing the booths once more, my daughters each chose a belly dancing wrap to take home.  We have fond memories of our trip back to the Renaissance era, and recommend it for anyone interested in traveling back in history or seeing some cute, campy shows and costumes.  Discount tickets are available on the Faire site through Walgreens.  Happy time travel!


All throughout my pregnancy with my daughter Hannah, I assumed that I would return to work full-time and put her in daycare. I can honestly say I didn’t think there was any alternative for me. Then on my third day home from the hospital with my baby girl I called my grandmother to tell her the happy news that Hannah was finally here. That conversation changed my view of work and my life forever.

Her words were simple, but they haunted me for weeks afterward. She said, “Why are you going back to work when you wanted that baby so much?” My grandmother was sweet, but blunt, and after crying for three weeks I knew that if I wanted be with my child and not put her daycare then I was going to have to make it happen.


So I hatched my plan to turn my full-time job into a job-share so that I could work part-time, half-days while my mother watched Hannah so that I could be with her for the rest of the day. I credit my former boss John Checklick at United Way for giving me the opportunity to work in this capacity, even though I could tell his first instinct was to say no. The arrangement allowed me to be with my daughter and still contribute to my family’s household income.

John Checklick and Hannah

I couldn’t have done this successfully for 4 years without my husband being on board and supporting me, my boss, and my wonderful mom who watched my children every day. I had family and amazing bosses who supported me. I wanted to pay tribute to them and to every other amazing employer in the Hudson Valley who supports and offers part-time, flex-time, on-site childcare, maternity-leave and paternity-leave, and alternative work arrangments. I truly believe that when employers help support parents in their quest for a work-life balance it’s a win-win for all involved.


I have worked in almost every capacity since becoming a mom 6 years ago. I have worked part-time, full-time when I had my own daycare, and worked exclusively as a stay-at-home mom. Now I’m working at home for Hudson Valley Parent Magazine doing what I love most – writing about my amazing family. I couldn’t be happier, despite the kids begging for snacks and bickering even as I’m writing now. That’s because I can be with them all day and write for a magazine I love.


No working arrangement is perfect, just like no parent is perfect. It’s a constant juggle. There have been plenty of days in all my work situations where I’ve felt like I was playing a losing game, but it’s one I will gladly play for the rest of my life. I’ve learned that most parents, moms especially, have guilt no matter where they work and what hours they work, even if they stay at home.

I’ve also learned that if you pursue with passion whatever it is that makes you happy, you WILL find a way to make it happen. So thanks to all the employers who’ve adopted flexible work arrangements so that parents can do what they do best – love and provide for their kids!

If you have an awesome employer or work arrangement, share it here with other parents in the Hudson Valley. They should get loads of accolades and maybe just maybe other employers will follow suit.


Another beautiful weekend is upon us, and the Hudson Valley has lots to offer.  Kids know how to enjoy the simple things in life, but if you’re looking for something to do, here are the top picks for this weekend…



-It’s a beautiful night to meet some friends at the drive-in!  You can read about our experience and a few tips for a memorable night here.

-The Town of Newburgh rescheduled their Independence Day for tonight!  Fireworks, music, games, and a fire truck display will be held at Algonquin Park from 6-10pm.  Free for the whole family!



-Goshen Rotary is hosting their annual Family Fun Day from 12-4 at the Land of Goshen Park on Craigville Road.  They will have bounce houses, obstacle courses, carnival games, crafts, and treats for the kids.  All free!

-The Greenwood Lake Air Show is going on all weekend.  They will have skydivers,  acrobatic acts, microjets, live music and much more.  The gates open at 9 and the show begins at 12:30.  Tickets are $25 for adults, $10 for kids 4-12, and free for younger kids.

-A great way to get outside is to explore.  We went hiking at Croton Gorge and had a beautiful day.  You can read about our day trip here.



-Be a little lazy this Sunday and let someone else cook you breakfast.  We enjoyed Rogowski Farms for their farm fresh treats, and you can check that out here.

-The Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo is in full swing.  This Sunday they have Nickelodeon’s Mike the Knight for the kids to meet while taking in a little culture and a great time.

-I know apples are our thing in the Hudson Valley but so are peaches.  I promise you.  Go pick your own at Ochs Farm and you’ll see. Check out our trip here.

Have a great weekend!

Last week, renowned Celiac Disease researcher Dr. Peter Green helped the FDA reform the gluten-free food labeling standards (which currently allow up to 200 parts per million of gluten) to a voluntary compliance of up to 20 parts per million.  As exposure, and the resulting gastrointestinal distress or intestinal damage from gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley) is cumulative, this change offers great progress for individuals needing to avoid gluten. It allows individuals who follow a gluten-free diet to enjoy a safer lifestyle with more options. 

The gluten-free market has grown tremendously.  People who became gluten-free 20 years ago chuckle at the fact that gluten-free baked goods used to mean only rice cakes.   Still, following a gluten-free diet can often feel like being on the outside looking in.  Stop by a potluck, go out to dinner, or attend a birthday party, and you’ll watch your carefree friends and family happily eating and chatting without a second thought as to safe food choices or cross-contamination. 

With the new labeling standards in place, Celiac Disease researchers and advocates can now focus on the health content of packaged gluten-free foods.  Manufacturers seem to utilize refined flours and higher levels of sugar (as compared to non gluten-free foods) as some sort of consolation prize in exchange for gluten.  The average gluten-free breakfast food or baked good is considerably less healthy than the gluten-containing counterpart, and available choices are still dramatically smaller.  

Also, the gluten-free section of most grocery stores, while much appreciated and larger than in the past, still has dramatically less choices than the rest of the grocery store.  Hopefully, the change in labeling standards will raise public awareness and educate manufacturers on safe production processes and gluten content.  In turn, safe gluten-free food can be more readily available, and bring about an ease in access and confidence in products.

My hope is that one day a pizzeria’s gluten-free pizza will be the same size as the “other” pizza (without being twice the price as it is now), and gluten-free families will be able to eat gluten-free Cheerios instead of the sugary options currently available.  With one important change in standards underway, there is hope for further reform and improvements in the lives of the ever-increasing population of gluten-free folks.

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